Monday, January 3, 2011

Rescuing the Rescuers

January 1 dawns the start of a new year and new beginnings. Sometimes we expect a lot, sometimes we're pessimistic and decide to be grouchy about it all, and sometimes we just decide to set that day aside to help those who give up a lot of time to help us. That was the case for Jeff and I as we began 2011. I know that sounds like a big deal, but I think it was really more fun for us and a chance for the rescuers to realize just how insane the people in Colorado really are.

Saturday morning was a very brisk start to 2011. The thermometer at our house read -8 degrees, but the thermometer at the Pueblo airport, about a dozen miles to the East, was reading -21 degrees. But, oh, what a gorgeous morning! That perfect robin's egg blue sky, a few whispy clouds, the snow still hanging around....Still, it took a few moments to decide on how to dress in preparation for the, uh, task ahead. We finally made a decision on our wardrobe, gathered our sleepy son up, and hit the road. Our destination was Palmer Park in Colorado Springs, but first we had to make a detour to a friend's house nearby the park to drop Luke off. He wasn't happy about that since the original plans were for him to be with us, but he dealt since it was so cold and we didn't want to worry about him. Besides, he'd have a young friend to play with, and he loves that!

So, on to what we were doing. Well, we joined about 600 other crazy individuals and braved the frigid temperatures to run a race! It was the 33rd annual Rescue Run 5k and 10k, which benefits the El Paso County Search and Rescue. I guess a little over 700 people signed up (interesting, since we saw numbers over 1000, and I saw the number 1 bib), but not everyone came. That's okay, all the money still goes to help these rescuers who brave horrible conditions, bad situations, crumbly rocks, floods, snowstorms, get a little over-anxious on the Manitou Incline and Pikes Peak, and so much more in order to help keep those of us who love the outdoors safe. They even help those who aren't so outdoorsy! So, this is a fun way to show support.

The course was a moderately difficult one with a lot of hills. It also took us over pavement, slightly sandy soil, and gravel, all of which were covered by a layer of snow. And ice! I have heard that a number of people slipped and fell on the 5k run, especially on the way back down the hill. I am pleased to let everyone know Jeff and I both stayed upright, something that could've been tricky! Speaking of, I thought of grabbing my Yaktrax before leaving the house, but decided not to. Yeah, I think next year they'll be a must!

When we started our run it was a balmy 5 degrees. Toasty warm! Not really, but since the winds were calm, it really wasn't that bad. Once we started running, the toes warmed right up, too. Jeff wasn't sure which course he would do, though he'd initially planned on the 5k (this race you decide which one to run while on course). When we got to the fork he went right, making his first run of 2011 a 10k. I was behind him at this point and was happy to see him taking the challenge! You have to realize that I'm the runner. He runs really well, but he's a mountain biker. He grabs a few miles on his feet each week, but the rest of the time is spent on his bike. This was a big step! I did eventually pass him, but I wasn't sure what to expect on the amount, size, or distances of the hills, so I was preserving myself. He did a fantastic job of keeping a steady pace, and he still came in under an hour! I'm very, very proud of him.

Speaking of how the run went, I now know I can push myself a lot more on this course. I got stronger as the time went on, even while watching my footing so I wouldn't get hurt. By the last 2.5 miles I had a really, really good pace going. My last 1.5 miles I believe I ran about a 7:15 mile. I passed a lot of people, and the SAR teams posted at various points around the course got a kick out of my singing while running. I'm glad I could provide some laughter! I finished in a conservative 56:17 for the 6.2 miles. Not bad, considering the course conditions and the fact I had no idea what to expect on difficulty!
(horrible mid-stride shot, but you can see I'm definitely singing!)

Once we were done and cooled down (which, frankly, sounds really strange since it was maybe 10-degrees now), we headed back to our friend's house to have some lunch and pick up our son. It was a great, great day! The perfect way to begin what will hopefully be an active year, and a great new tradition for us. Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions? Nope! I set goals!

I have a problem with making resolutions for the incoming year. They're too easily broken, too easily ignored, and too easily forgotten. My solution to this problem is to make goals instead. This means I can change them, not do something stupid in order to achieve that goal, and not feel guilty if it doesn't happen. It makes life so much simpler!

So, as we usher in 2011, I will share what my goals for the year are. Brace yourself. I think I am officially 100% insane now:

1. Complete the Pikes Peak Ascent in decent form and fashion. This is a half marathon (13.1 miles) up Barr Trail from Manitou Springs to the summit of Pikes Peak. The distance isn't the issue, it's the nearly 8000 foot elevation gain! Okay, so I need to be on the ball and get my entry in immediately as it opens or this will have to wait for another year, but I have a plan in place!

2. Complete my first (and only...I'm not that insane!) full marathon in October. That will be 26.2 miles of pounding the pavement through the streets of Denver. I don't plan on being fast, just finishing. I'd really like to finish ahead of Jared Fogle's time in the NYC marathon (the Subway guy). I'd really hate to have him show me up!

3. Get those 3 mountains in this year! Pikes Peak Ascent doesn't count. I know this is all weather dependent, but I'm okay with that.

4. Camp more. We love it, we just need to do it more often.

5. Complete the bike race at Pueblo Reservoir in April. I've been talked into this, but I'm game! Jeff will be doing the race, too. Just a more advanced trail.

6. Get that triathlon in this year! I'm upping the ante here. Instead of doing a sprint tri (half mile swim, 11-15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run), I'm going for the "regular" distance. I can't remember the swim distance, but it's about a mile, the bike is 25 miles, and the run is 6 miles. If scheduling is tough again, and/or a sprint tri is more readily available, I'll hold this goal for later and do the sprint triathlon.

7. Finish the race tomorrow morning (New Year's Day) in the snow, frigid temps, and hilly terrain of Palmer Park. This is in Colorado Springs, and it benefits the El Paso County Search and Rescue team. Jeff is running the 5k, I am running the 10k. We're both in really good shape, but I have a feeling this one will wipe us both pretty good! Who cares? It will be fun, and it benefits a GREAT thing for all of us!

8. Most importantly: to have fun! I always strive to be a halfway decent mom and wife, I need to do better as a homemaker, and constantly live to grow in my faith, so those really don't apply to this list. I'm pretty sure I'm over being a mediocre Airman, and my career is in God's hands. I do the best I can to serve my country and community, but I can't do it without Him leading me. So, that leaves having fun!

I wish and pray for all of you to have a fantastic year. Enjoy your families, enjoy whatever environment you live in, and have a blessed time! Happy New Year! Now, let's get busy ringing in 2011.....

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 In Review...

Okay, so it might be a tad early to be posting this since we're a week away from New Year's Eve, but it also doubles as a Christmas letter, so...

What a wild, fast-paced, and fun year! The year was rung in with the usual fireworks from atop Pikes Peak. It's quite the spectacle from 40-miles away! It was also the fourth year we were blessed to see this sight. If the forecast holds out, we won't be so lucky on year five. That's okay, we really need the snow. February brought the world together for the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. Little did we know this was going to be the start of something thrilling and invigorating for us! Luke saw the figure skaters, speed skaters, and hockey players and stated, rather bluntly, that he wanted to skate. Being the parents we are, we seized the moment and immediately looked into lessons. He was on the ice within a week....and immediately hated it. Little did he know you can't just walk out onto the stuff like you can a sidewalk! But he stuck with it and tried as hard as he could to become great on the ice. He informed us he wanted to play hockey, and he's on his first team now. This was one sport we never even considered when we found out a baby was on the way, but it's one we've enjoyed watching in the past. Maybe that final Penguins game we got to go to with the Fayette Energy Facility guys while I was 4-months along did the trick! Hockey is definitely more fun to watch when it's a bunch of 4 - 8 year olds, though!
(Luke's on the right, his buddy, Parker, next to him)

Jeff took up mountain biking with a vengeance this year. He went through two bikes (okay, he still has his first and uses it on the road) and logged about 600 or 700 miles on the trails. There were some spectacular crashes, a few moments of blood, and a couple of hilarious videos, but no broken bones. Thank goodness! He took me with him a few times, but I just can't keep up with the man! He's an animal on the bike! I'm grateful to have a husband who is so inclined to be outside and doing something active. He didn't sail much this year, but sometimes the schedules just don't mesh with real life. He did get to take Luke out for about an hour, though! Both thought that was just an awesome way to spend the afternoon, and I'm just glad they got off the lake before the winds kicked enough to blow them all they way to Leadville!

I started running again before the new year, but I wasn't wholly serious about it. Once I realized I felt better than I had since before my pregnancy, I kicked it up a notch. We ran our town's annual 5k race on the 4th of July, and I was thrilled to have been in the top 10% of all the competitors (there's more to that, but I'll explain later)! I found a few more races I wanted to do, started logging my miles, and ended up with an invite to run my first half marathon in Denver in October. It took me about 3-months to get ready, but I completed those 13.1 miles feeling better than I expected to (I was still rather sore, though!) in 1 hour, 55 minutes, and 30 seconds. I smashed my goal of 2 hours and 30 minutes!! That was my big news for the year, and one I'm not afraid to say I'm rather proud of.

I never did get to compete in a triathlon this year like I had planned. I never could find one that worked with my schedule. I'm okay with it since I ran the half marathon, but I hope to try again this coming year. Jeff and I both planned to do three 14ers (Fourteeners = 14,000 foot mountains), but we accomplished only one each. No complaints there, either, since Mother Nature had a bigger goal than us and provided deadly thunderstorms and monsoons that began in the mornings instead of the late afternoons. That led to a lot of people hiking and climbing at night, and a lot of others who decided they could handle the weather during the day. It was a banner year for people coming off the mountains in body bags.....or not at all. Nature was telling us to give it a rest this season, and we gladly listened. Still, Jeff was able to make the climb to the summit of Mount Princeton outside of Buena Vista (pronounced Byounah, not how you'd want to say it) in late July while I summited the one I really, really wanted to do: Mount Massive outside of Leadville. Remember how I said the 4th of July race had more to it? Yeah, I climbed this mountain (and was coming down, still above tree level, when a fast moving storm hit. No lightning, thank God! Just a ton of wind and graupel) the day before that 5k. It was July 3rd, and it was amazing! Definitely the prettiest 14er I have done to date! Most emotional, too...
Luke did more than just skating and hockey, too. He played Tee Ball for the first time. He enjoyed it, but was frustrated because he couldn't handle the ball more. He showed in another leadline class at the Colorado Summer Classic Horse Show on a pony that had never left the property before. Both were fantastic and the stars of the show (Finn was the smallest pony there). And he got some time learning to ride his bike, getting some hiking in, and begging to go camping.

We were able to make it to both Utah and Texas to visit both sets of grandparents this fall. Utah was over our 12th wedding anniversary, and it was an active trip! Luke loved getting the time with Gramma and Grampa, Jeff and I loved getting to do a few trails on our bikes together. It was too short of a trip, but it was a lot of fun. Texas was over Thanksgiving and a bit of a shock. I don't know what the temperature was when we arrived, but the next day was the day before Thanksgiving and it was 86 degrees! That's insane for that time of year, even for Texas! Thanksgiving brought the cold front and the daytime temps dropped to 35. See? Shocking! But it was a fantastic trip filled with family and a lot of laughter.

Finally, we have the arrival of Christmas. We stayed home in our quiet little house and had a nice morning opening gifts, watching A Christmas Story, and enjoying each other's company. We also started a new tradition: sledding on Christmas Day! While most of the mountains have been hammered recently and have a ton of snow, the same cannot be said for us, the Front Range, or the Wet Mountains out the front of our house. Still, we loaded sleds, snow gear, and hot chocolate, then piled into the 4Runner to make the trip to San Isabel. We really weren't sure there would be any snow, so imagine our relief and pleasure when there was JUST enough to sled for a while! We had a ball, and we're only a little worse for the wear.

I hope the year was as fun and eventful for all of you!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

To Israel, With Love.....

Not many people are aware that I have a heritage of firefighting and law enforcement in my family. It's widely known that we have a strong military background, but I think most are actually shocked when they learn about the other civil service connections. It is something that we don't hide, but it's also not brought up in casual conversation nearly as often as the Air Force. Let me give you the very fast rundown:

My mom's side of the family holds the law enforcement background. I can't really explain why, but every mention of NASCAR gives me a bitter feeling. You see, this racing sport finds its roots in prohibition. It was a group of Bootleggers, the name given to those who illegally transported the outlawed liquors to underground bars (speakeasies), who are responsible for the death of my great-grandfather, an Anderson County, South Carolina Sheriff's Deputy. He was killed in the line of duty while pursuing a car known to be supplying a speakeasy and was run off an embankment. You can view his memorial on the Officer Down Memorial Page here.

My dad's side of the family had a number of men who served as firefighters in Moline and Rock Island, Illinois. My parents still display in their house a photograph from the 1920's (I believe) of my dad's uncle and two of his fellow firefighters on an engine. When I've visited Moline, I have made it a point to stop by the old firehouse. I am sad to hear that it is vacant and falling into decay now, but the voices of the past speak loudly at this spot.

What does this have to do with Israel? Well, it gives a little background, and a little insight into some of my feelings. For a short time in high school I considered pursuing a college degree in law enforcement. I even visited the Police Academy in Salt Lake City to inquire! Then I saw how those cadets were training and thought I could never survive that kind of discipline and structure. I was always kind of enamored with firefighting, but I figured I wasn't strong enough and too big a chicken to actually consider making that a career. I don't have any idea why the lack of confidence never entered my brain when I decided to enlist into the military. Having a Smoky the Bear hat brim pushed into your forehead with some madman yelling at you to stop looking like Elvis (meaning my collar was standing up) at 5am while you're trying to eek out the Air Force Song isn't exactly a walk in the park! But, that was the decision I made and I have absolutely no regrets.

Now I am sitting here nearly 15-years after I flew out of my hometown for Basic Military Training and ponder those naive teenaged thoughts. It is no secret that I was blessed with the opportunity to join a Reserve unit in Colorado Springs last winter that holds a unique mission. I was excited because it meant I would actually be serving with planes. I mean, I've been in the Air Force a long time, but never stationed with planes! Okay, so I lived about 200-yards off of a very busy runway while I was Active Duty stationed in Hawaii, and Kelly-turned-Lackland has C-5's and F-16's, but I finished my Active Duty time in Texas on the Annex with the label as "one of those weird people who disappear once they park their cars." The legal office at Andrews may have a fantastic view of Air Force One, but other than being able to see the plane out the window because we shared a MAJCOM and base, we had nothing to do with aircraft. I digress....

I mention this unique mission because it also brings my firefighting heritage full circle. The 302nd Airlift Wing is the only Air Force Reserve unit with the mission of aerial firefighting via the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS). There are four C-130 units with this capability, but the other three are Air National Guard units. While I admit I am not one of the lucky individuals who gets to operate the MAFFS systems and fly all over the place to help those in need, I am proud to be able to support this mission by being a member of this unit.

This past week saw the eruption of the worst wildfire in Israel's history. It was fast-moving, burning over a large expanse of land, and deadly. To their credit, this small nation realized they needed a lot of help from the international community. Our crews and planes were called to leave on Saturday morning. It was such an amazing example of how quickly we (myself included here) can get a typical C-130H aircraft turned into a firebombing tanker and a crew into the air in a matter of moments. As the planes left the cold of Colorado, we sent our prayers with them to the warmth of Israel.

I am pleased to report that the fire is now contained with hot spots being mopped up. Our planes should be headed home soon, if they aren't in the air already. The people of Israel can rest a little easier tonight, even while they grieve the loss of 42 lives. We await the arrival of our crews back to Colorado, and we start the preparation for the next call. Meanwhile, I sit here tonight thinking of this and finally realizing just how ingrained a familial heritage really can be.....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rock 'n' Roll Pro-shots

These are just a smattering of my favorite shots by the professional photographers from the half marathon two weeks ago. What an exhilarating feeling! After looking at every single photo, and watching the finish line video multiple times, I also have learned that I strike my left heel too much while my right foot lands pretty beautifully mid- to forefoot every single time. Guess who's going to work on fixing that by going to a more minimal stance (i.e. Newton running shoes and Vibram FiveFingers....basically: barefoot). Heck, I'm not a big shoe person, anyway :)

About mile 3, right before the old Union Station. I thought this was a fun shot since we were in the same step, same stride, and both looking at the camera. She pulled away shortly after and finished 19-minutes ahead of me.

Deep in concentration, probably singing, around mile 9 or 10. Two steps later and I realized I was inches from running the photographer over! Whoops...quick sidestep and all was saved.

Photographer JUST missed my hands up, but it's still a good shot

Stopping my watch at the finish line

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rockin 'n' Rollin Denver....

As much as I absolutely love watching the sun come up and the world come to life, I desperately hate dragging my lazy butt out of bed in the morning. This is especially true when the seasons turn and it's cold. I made the exception this morning, however, to have an adventure through the the streets of Denver, Colorado.
My day started when my alarm went off at 4:45 am and I stumbled out of my very comfortable bed at my cousin's house in Highlands Ranch. If ever there was a time I was grateful to not have to wear make-up or make a big ta-da about getting ready to go somewhere, this was it! My body was protesting and the bed was calling. Frankly, I was amazed because I slept great and felt no anxiety when I thought I would. I pushed forward, layered my clothing, made sure I had everything packed up, stuffed my hair in a ball cap and braided my pony tail before heading out to my car. Thank goodness the train station was minutes away and I didn't have to worry about driving this early!
Imagine my surprise when I arrived to a full parking lot, had to wait in line to buy my ticket, and piled into the train with close to 100 people heading to the same destination as mine. It was at that moment I knew the decision to ride the light rail was an excellent plan for the morning. It was easy to settle in for the 30'ish-minute ride into downtown Denver, giving me a chance to munch a granola bar and hydrate just a little bit. I watched as more people filled the train and figure the final count was probably close to 300 people leaving the train and walking the nearly 1/2 mile to the Civic Center Park. Really, this was a wonderful way to keep a bit of the 38-degree chill of an autumn morning in Colorado!
I arrived to the park and still looked around in amazement at the amount of people who had already shown up for our early morning excursion. I figured I'd make a pit stop (which required standing in line for about 15-minutes), find the gear check area to drop my gear bag and shed my warm clothing, make one more pit stop, and head for my corral area. Turns out that was wise because I only had about 5-minutes before I went from shivering to stretching my legs on the pavement from the moment I dropped my gear bag!
I don't know if you've ever seen 16,000 people cheerfully facing the daunting task of running 13.1 or 26.2 miles on a chilly morning before the sun has risen, but it is definitely a sight to behold! I was a little wary of ever being able to settle into a decent stride, but the fabulous race and planning crews in events this large, the wave start worked like a dream. From the moment I crossed the start line I was able to catch my stride and set to work attempting to achieve a bit of an insane goal.
The run down 14th Street was really inspiring since there was a throng of spectators braving the cold to cheer us on. Even shop owners stepped out to lend their support! This went on for about 2-miles. By mile 3, the streets were nearly deserted. I managed to wind my way through a lot of people who were already struggling while actually enjoying the historical architecture. I was actually given chills as we ran past Union Station since I had just learned its history a few days prior. I had no idea we were so close to it! Once we rounded the corner onto 17th Street, the masses of spectators were back. So was the first real test of the course.
We were about 4-miles into the course by this point and the road turned into a short, but steep hill. I am so thankful I live in Pueblo West and have been training on the hills in my community for so many months! This hill was a piece of cake for me, to the point I increased my pace! There were a few of us who were able to do this, but the majority were dropping like flies. Some had to step off the course and catch their breath, others walked slowly. It truly showed who had prepared, and who was doing too much too soon.
The top of the hill came quickly and we wound our way into the park that houses the Denver Zoo. As I neared the 6.2-mile mark (10k), I realized I was just shy of the half-way point. It went by so fast! I cruised through the next couple of miles, increasing my pace and stride length all the way. Then I hit mile 9.
This was the most difficult part of the race for me. It was also around this time I realized I could no longer feel my butt....literally....and the ball of my right foot felt like I was stepping on a large rock with every step. I immediately thought "oh boy, this is going to make thing tougher and I'm going to pay for it," but I pushed on. While I still could not feel my butt by mile 10, I did get relief in my foot and gained an extra bit of strength that still surprises me. I knew I only had 3.1 miles left and increased my stride and pace again. By the time I reached 11.5 miles, I was completely comfortable again because my butt regained feeling. I've never experienced that before! It was quite strange.
Mile 12 was the point where the marathoners split from the half marathoners. It was such an organized thing that I was impressed for the umpteenth time. I also knew I was just over 1 mile from my finish line, that I was done with any and all slight (and I mean VERY slight) uphill sections. In fact, this part of the course gave us a very slight downhill, so I took full advantage. I opened up and decided to start my "fast finish" from here rather than the last 1/2 mile. The course also gave us about 1/4 mile of a steep downhill, so that gave me even more opportunity.
In case you haven't figured it out by now, I ran my first half marathon today! I have trained hard over the past few months in an effort to just complete all of those miles. I was eventually challenged to enter the Pikes Peak Ascent next summer, so I changed my goal to running this race in 2 hours 30 minutes (the qualifying time to enter the Ascent). I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 55-minutes, and 30-seconds, absolutely smashing my goal! It was a total feeling of euphoria!

I am now sitting here with sore muscles, a very tired body, and a really cool finisher's medal. I'm riding a high that is rivaled only by the birth of my beautiful son, but I also know getting out of bed tomorrow morning....AFTER the sun comes going to be a wee bit painful. But I figure if I can climb the steps to the Capitol building and climb on top of a pillar to take a fun picture after my race while my legs are screaming at me to just sit and rest, followed by walking those few miles back to Union Station (where I decided to catch the train back to my car so I wouldn't have to walk any further), then I can climb out of bed and head to school.....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hockey Mom!

Yes, yes, it is true: I am now officially a Hockey Mom! In all honesty, when the glimmer of kids came up in our lives, I never once imagined that the term "hockey parents" would ever enter the picture. It's just now something that we've ever been big into. Baseball, swimming, football, even soccer was more along the expectation line!
Fast forward a number of years and get to know my amazing, stubborn, and dead-set 4-year-old son and you can now find us picking out equipment to protect said child from cracking all of his bones on the ice.
Last spring, after Luke started to learn how to skate, we were invited to watch a youth hockey tournament. It was the BEST hockey game ever! The most adorable kids, the most enthusiastic parents, and just a ton of fun all around. It's hard to believe that we'll be cheering our youngster with those others, but we are extremely excited about it.
Now, if anyone can give suggestions on how to keep Luke from having his stick attached to him at all times, especially in bed, that would be great......